Taking on the top-ranked team in the country in Alabama on Saturday, WKU all-America candidates Jack Doyle, Andrew Jackson and Quanterus Smith proved to be up to the challenge, as all three put together impressive performances on both sides of the ball.
Smith, WKU’s senior defensive end out of Loganville, Ga., made an immediate impact in his first game of the 2012 season against the top-ranked Crimson Tide, registering a career-high three sacks in the game, with the lost yardage totaling 27 yards. Smith’s three sacks paced a WKU defense that sacked Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron six times on the day, giving the Hilltoppers eight sacks and 13 tackles for loss in their first two games of the season.
Smith pressured McCarron all afternoon in Tuscaloosa, posting a pair of sacks in the second half totaling losses of 10 and 11 yards, respectively.
In Smith’s last 24 games dating back to the 2010 season, the defensive end has 14.5 sacks, including three games with two or more sacks during that span. Smith has led the WKU defense in sacks in each of the last two seasons, including a team-best 7.5 sacks in 2011.
The 2011 second team all-Sun Belt Conference selection has registered 24.5 tackles for loss in his last 13 games, with losses totaling 128 yards. His three tackles in the game on Saturday give him 95 career stops from his defensive end position.
Smith was honored as an all-Sun Belt Conference pick during the preseason.
Smith’s defensive counterpart, Andrew Jackson, continued to prove that he is one the nation’s elite linebackers, as the junior had 1.5 tackles for loss and led the Hilltopper defense with seven total tackles, including six solo stops. For Jackson, the 1.5 tackles for loss give him four over the first two games of the season, and 21 tackles for loss over his last 14 games. In two games against LSU and Alabama over the last two years, the 6-1, 265-pound linebacker has compiled 15 total tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss, to go along with 1.5 sacks.
In just his 14th career start at linebacker, Jackson put together a seven-tackle performance on Saturday, giving him 13 games with at least six tackles in his 14 career starts. Jackson, who tied for 14th nationally in tackles for loss in 2011, has now registered a tackle for loss in 13 of his 14 starts.
Jackson’s four tackles for loss in 2012 rank him atop the Sun Belt Conference in that category, a statistic that he also led the league in last season.
Jackson received national recognition during the offseason, earning a spot on the Butkus Award Preseason Watch List, Bronto Nagurski Trophy Preseason Watch List and the Rotary Lombardi Trophy Preseason Watch List. Jackson was also named 2012 Preseason all-Sun Belt Conference.
Jackson racked up 109 tackles in 2011, ranking 39th in the nation and third in the Sun Belt Conference in that category.
Jack Doyle, the senior tight end that led WKU in receptions in the season opener against Austin Peay, continued his stellar play in week two, leading the Hilltoppers with seven catches for 45 yards against the Crimson Tide. The Indianapolis, Ind., native has now led WKU in receptions in nine out of the last 14 games dating back to last season, and now has five-straight games with at least five catches.
Doyle had 20 catches in the final three games of the 2011 season, including five against then-No. 1 LSU. In two career games against the top-ranked team in the nation, Doyle has recorded 12 catches for 99 yards.
With the seven catches against Alabama, Doyle now has 121 career receptions, moving him into sole possession of sixth place all-time at WKU, and just 48 catches away from breaking Jake Gaebler’s all-time record of 168 grabs at WKU. Doyle is also just two receptions away from tying Keith Paskett (1983-86) for fifth place all-time.
Doyle picked up numerous preseason honors leading up to the 2012 season, including being named to the John Mackey Award Preseason Watch List for the second-straight season, while also being named to the Preseason all-Sun Belt Conference team.
The trio of Hilltoppers will now turn their attention to another SEC opponent next Saturday, as WKU travels to Lexington, Ky., to take on Kentucky.